Popular science and Book reviews


In this publication series you will find book reviews and popular scientific articles, including opinion pieces. The majority of the articles are available for download.

Only papers in English are listed on this page. The complete list of book reviews and popular scientific articles can be found on our Swedish page.

Quillette, October 7, 2019

The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity—A Review

Johan Wennström

A review of The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity by Douglas Murray, Bloomsbury, 280 pages (September, 2019).

Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, August 26, 2019

CEO Incentives Shown to Yield Positive Societal Benefits

Lars Oxelheim

The negative aspects of large CEO pay and the associated incentives have been a hot political issue in many countries. Our research identifies some positive aspects of CEO incentives in a broader economic/societal context that have been overlooked. In a five-year longitudinal study across major free-market nations in Asia, Europe, and the Americas, we find when a higher proportion of CEOs in a nation receive incentives, that nation’s GDP increases significantly in the following years, independent of the incentives monetary value.​

VoxEU.org, CEPR Policy Portal, August 12, 2019, and World Economic Forum, August 13, 2019

How Sweden Became More Entrepreneurial Than the US

Fredrik Heyman, Pehr-Johan Norbäck and Lars Persson

Recent studies document a 30-year decline in various measures of dynamism in the US, manifested in a decline in the share of young firms as well as their share of job creation. This column shows that this has not been the case in Sweden. Young firms have been more prominent in the Swedish business sector than in the US in recent decades, and policies to encourage entrepreneurship are key to this.

The Journal of Economic History, vol. 79, no. 2, 2019

Dissertation Summary: "On the Move: Essays on the Economic and Political Development of Sweden"

Erik Prawitz

The transformation of Sweden, from an agricultural society in the mid nineteenth century to one of the world’s richest nations at the start of WWI, was remarkable. Beyond the well-documented increase in real wages, Sweden established itself as an entrepreneurial welfare state. In fact, concurrent to the rapid economic upswing, it underwent a period of substantial political change. One of the aims of my dissertation is to shed light on the possible causes behind this striking transformation and, thus, improve on the understanding of why Sweden became Sweden of today—in terms of both its economic and political development.

VoxEU.org, CEPR Policy Portal, April 9, 2019

Credit Ratings and Structured Finance

Jens Josephson and Joel Shapiro

The poor performance of credit ratings of structured finance products in the financial crisis has prompted investigation into the role of credit rating agencies. This column discusses the incidence of rating inflation when such an agency both designs and rates securities, highlighting the role of demand from investors that face rating constraints, such as banks, pension funds, or insurance companies. It finds that ratings are accurate when these constraints are very tight or very lax, but inflated otherwise.

Quillette, March 27, 2019

The Exhaustion of Hedgehog Morality

Johan Wennström

This analysis suggests that, as in the 1930s and the Second World War, liberalism today is being confronted by “authoritarianism.” In response, the analysis counsels, liberals should either renew their appeal to voters by persuasively restating their intellectual foundations and historical accomplishments or promote a more muscular version of their creed.

Executive summary. Europaperspektiv 2019

The European Union and the Return of the Nation State

Antonina Bakardjieva Engelbrekt, Anna Michalski and Lars Oxelheim

Ever since the first steps towards European integration were taken in the early 1950s, the relationship between the nation-state and the European Union has been a crucial issue. Throughout the years and in various ways, this relationship has defined the form and scope of European integration.

In particular, the movement towards deeper integration has followed two distinct and partly contrary lines of development: increased supranationalism, in the form of greater powers for the Union; and intensified intergovernmentalism, in the form of closer cooperation amongst the member states, In fact, the EU has embraced both types of integration since its inception.

This can be seen in its treaties, in its common institutions, and in the formulation of its actual policies. However, this essentially natural and balancing relationship has recently been challenged by individual member states acting in their self-interest; and the foundations of European cooperation have been called more and more loudly into question.

This raises two issues: First, if indeed we are witnessing the return of the national-state, in what form is it returning? Second, is the national revival a lasting phenomenon with which the EU must deal for a long time to come, or is it rather a transitory trend?

VoxEU.org, CEPR Policy Portal, November 3, 2018

Early Entry to Verify Quality Stimulates Breakthrough Innovations

Pehr-Johan Norbäck, Lars Persson and Roger Svensson

Most OECD countries provide subsidies to stimulate the entry and growth of small entrepreneurial firms. This column argues that a better policy would be to combine these subsidy schemes with policies that improve the merger and acquisition market for small entrepreneurial firms, because the best strategy for such firms is to make an early entry to market to signal innovation quality and overcome asymmetry problems. Entrepreneurs would be able to create bidding competition among incumbents and receive a higher acquisition price, incentivising them to develop breakthrough innovations that will raise welfare.

Quillette, September 18, 2018

‘Post-Truth’ and the Decline of Swedish Education

Magnus Henrekson and Johan Wennström

In the last 15–20 years, Sweden has suffered a downturn in several important aspects of the elementary and secondary education system. To begin to illustrate the state of Sweden’s schools, we can make a comparison with the heavily criticized American education system. It is a common and understandable belief, in the U.S. and elsewhere, that Swedish schools compare favorably with American schools in terms of educational outcomes.

ProMarket Blog, September 6, 2018

How the Market Can Help Break the Glass Ceiling for Women in Management

Fredrik Heyman, Pehr-Johan Norbäck and Lars Persson

A new CEPR working paper investigates how product market competition and gender-specific management career hurdles affect the gender wage gap for managers. The findings suggest that increased product market competition may not only boost the wages of female managers but also improve overall efficiency.

Executive summary. Europaperspektiv 2018

The European Union in a changing world order

Antonina Bakardjieva Engelbrekt, Anna Michalski and Lars Oxelheim

The world is in a state of upheaval. In the last decade, much of public debate has been dedicated to global power shifts away from the United States and Europe and towards countries with strong economic growth or development potential, such as China, India, Brazil, and South Africa. 

CESifo Forum 4/2017

The Effects of Digitalisation on Labour Market Polarisation and Tax Revenue

Mårten Blix

Digitalization is sometimes described as the third industrial revolution. What insights can be gained from comparing the present situation to the state of society at the outset of the first industrial revolution some two-and-half centuries ago?

From the late 18th century onwards, it led to an upheaval in work and livelihoods at a time when there were few social safety nets. The rapid transformation of economies and societies triggered a drive to create new social and political institutions to manage and reduce the social costs of change.

Universal education, social security and pension systems were introduced. Spurred by hazardous and difficult work conditions, as well as excessively low pay, labour organised into trade unions to become a counterweight to employers and owners of firms. Societies developed methods to handle change and devised ways to resolve conflict through rules and negotiations, rather than through force.

VoxEU, November 23, 2017

Fostering Breakthrough Entrepreneurship

Erika Färnstrand Damsgaard, Per Hjertstrand, Pehr-Johan Norbäck, Lars Persson and Helder Vasconcelos

Most developed economies provide significant subsidies to small businesses to encourage innovation. This column argues that while subsidies to reduce entry costs may increase entrepreneurial entry, they can also lead to a reduction in the likelihood of ‘breakthrough’ inventions. Entry costs, which are incurred when an innovation project is successful, prompt small firms and entrepreneurs to pursue high-risk, high-reward innovations.

OECD International Transport Forum, August 3, 2017

Structural Change and the Freight Transport Labour Market

Mårten Blix

Nations that have managed to become rich have had institutional features that supported incentives for value creation while ensuring that the ways insiders and special interest groups can extract monopoly rents are limited. Improved skills have been a central component of helping individuals and societies to adapt to technological change.

As technological progress has led to the disappearance of many difficult and arduous jobs, many new jobs have been created with higher skill content, leading to better productivity and real wage growth. In the long run, the modern economy is set to continue to create new jobs, especially in the service sector.


The Swedish Labour Policy Council, July 14, 2017

The Duality of the Swedish Labour Market

Lars Calmfors, Petter Danielsson, Ann-Sofie Kolm, Per Skedinger and Toumas Pekkarinen

There are two key developments in the current labour market in Sweden. On the one hand, there is a strong economic upturn fuelled primarily by domestic demand. This means that the non-tradable sectors are doing better than the tradable sectors. There are labour shortages, particularly in the public sector and in the private service sectors. On the other hand, it is difficult for the low skilled, particularly those who are foreign born, to enter the labour market. Both these problems are considered in this report.

International Profiles of Health Care Systems, May 31, 2017

The Swedish Health Care System

Anna Häger Glenngård

All three levels of Swedish government are involved in the health care system. At the national level, the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs is responsible for overall health and health care policy, working in concert with eight national government agencies.

At the regional level, 12 county councils and nine regional bodies are responsible for financing and delivering health services to citizens.

At the local level, 290 municipalities are responsible for care of the elderly and the disabled. The local and regional authorities are represented by the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SALAR).

2017-04-29 VoxEU

Trends and gradients in top tax responses

Enrico Rubolino and Daniel Waldenström

The responsiveness of high-income earners to taxation is a central aspect of tax system design. This column presents patterns in the tax elasticity of top earners for up to 30 countries over a period of 115 years. Tax elasticities vary tremendously over time, space, and income, with a J-shaped pattern emerging over the past century. Tax avoidance behaviour strongly influences the elasticity of the very top earners, while there is less support for the role of labour supply responses across earners.

2017-04-26 VoxEU

Political Selection and the Path to Inclusive Meritocracy

Ernesto Dal Bó, Frederico Finan, Olle Folke, Torsten Persson and Johanna Rickne

Ancient Athenians drew lots to determine who served in public office, but oligarchs at that time (and ever since) have argued that there is a trade-off between competence and fair representation. This column uses Swedish population data on cognitive and leadership ability to argue that democracy in Sweden has created government by competent people who are representative of all walks of life. Sweden’s inclusive meritocracy suggests that electoral democracy can help us avoid the tension between representation and competence.

2017-04-13 VoxEU

Tax reforms and top incomes

Enrico Rubolino and Daniel Waldenström

The link between tax progressivity and the income distribution is the subject of intense debate. This column presents new evidence from tax reforms during the 1980s and 1990s to examine how reduced progressivity affects top income shares. Reduced progressivity boosted top incomes, particularly for those in the top 0.1% of earners. Income tax changes are therefore a plausible candidate for explaining the recent surge in income inequality.

Milken Institute Review, January 17, 2017

The Swedish Economy Triumph of Social Democracy – or Serendipity?

Andreas Bergh

In 2016, Sweden came out on top of the Reputation Institute's yearly ranking of 55 countries according to how people viewed them as places to live and work. The same year, Sweden outranked 162 other countries to reach the number-one spot in the Good Country Index, based on its ranking on 35 UN and World Bank criteria ranging from living standards to environmental sustainability.

Financial and Institutional Reforms for an Entrepreneurial Society (FIRES), January 13, 2017

Policy Brief on Institutional Reform for Enhanced Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Europe

Niklas Elert, Magnus Henrekson and Mikael Stenkula

We argue that institutional changes in a liberalizing direction are a sine qua non for economies of the European Union to become more entrepreneurial in order to promote innovation and economic growth.

However, this does not mean that one-size-fits-all policy reforms towards freer markets are likely to be successful. An important reason is that the 28 union member states have very different histories, and distinct institutional structures, affecting their efficiency and the viability of reforming them. 

Asian Economic Papers, Vol 16, No 2

Comment on Price Regulations and Tacit Collusion in the Interbank Electronic Bulk and Retail Credit Transfer Services: Thailand's Experience

Lars Oxelheim

2016 Centre for the Study of Market Reform of Education

Who’s to produce and who’s to choose

Gabriel Heller Sahlgren

The question how should the qualifications of students be assessed is one of the most defining and important aspects of any education system.

Financial and Institutional Reforms for an Entrepreneurial Society (FIRES), July 28, 2016

Policy Brief on The Institutional Evolution of Labour Market Institutions in Europe and Entrepreneurship

Gerarda Westerhuis and Magnus Henrekson

What is the impact of labour market institutions on entrepreneurial activity? Recently it has been argued that flexible labour market institutions have a positive influence on entrepreneurial activity. No doubt, labour mobility is an important condition for entrepreneurship.

The institutions governing the allocation of labour and talent in society enable entrepreneurs to develop their businesses and affect the willingness of employees to be(come) entrepreneurial. We analyse these institutions by reviewing labour market regulation in European countries from a historical perspective. We focus on three pillars: regulation of labour markets, wage-setting institutions and social insurance systems.

Interdisciplinary European Studies

The European Union in a Changing World Order


This book explores how the European Union responds to the ongoing challenges to the liberal international order. These challenges arise both within the EU itself and beyond its borders, and put into question the values of free trade and liberal democracy. 

About the book


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